tv [untitled] September 18, 2011 4:00am-4:30am PDT
society. i remember one who worked with the catholic church and worked through the restorative justice program to meet with surviving family members. it was actually televised. that is how much that individual changed. then he went on to have a very successful career and retired on a golf course in florida, as a matter of fact. they were debating the death penalty at the country club one day, and he said in two weeks, he would bring its former death row inmate. two weeks later, he walked in the room. he said that he immediately changed the minds of those arguing for the death penalty. that is just one powerful case, but there are many stories like that. i know that was not my question, but -- [laughter] >> your question was how could you bear to preside over an execution. how did you handle it? >> i would tell myself that it
was my role to lead, and leading that many things to me. that meant leaving my staff for the process. it meant leaving the inmates at the facility through the process. it meant reaching out to the family members of both the victim and the inmate. i just focused on what my responsibility was and my efforts to conduct this event as professionally and humanely as possible. in hindsight, i look back at that and realize that it had much more of an impact on me than i knew at the time. i knew when i carried out the last execution that i would not do it again. i got very sick after that execution, but that is what it was like for me. i practiced what i call servant leadership. i would get home at about 2:00 in the morning and find it difficult to do anything but pace in my house with everybody
else is asleep and return to the prison as early as 6:30 or 7:00 the next morning to check on everyone, and that is how i handled it -- pace in my house with everybody asleep. >> describe a situation where you would bring felony charges against a prosecutor for job- related conduct. >> if we had evidence that a prosecutor has engaged in felonious conduct, we would evaluate the evidence. it is what we would do in any other case. we determine the level of the conduct, the quality of the evidence, whether the evidence will be admissible in court in order to meet our burden of proof, which is the element of reasonable doubt. then we would probably prosecute a prosecutor or a police officer for his conduct. >> he is giving you a set of parameters that it would have to fit under. i do not think he is giving a
specific instance of it. do you want to add anything to that? >> i'm trying to think of an example that would actually fall -- that would be a statutory felony, one, and as far as misconduct in the courtroom -- because, obviously, there are many felonies. when a prosecutor commits murder and we have sufficient evidence, we will prosecute him or her as we would anyone else. it would have to be conduct in the courtroom that amounts to statutory a felony. if that is present, then there is an evaluation of the evidence, and what the evidence be able to survive through a court proceeding? and establish beyond a reasonable doubt for a jury that the conduct and effect actually occurred. we work not in an emotional world, hopefully. we are working with a more clinical assessment of evidence and whether we had a case.
frankly, again, just taking a step back, why am i here today? it is because i am convinced that there are many things we can do differently in reforming our system. for instance, we have not created a uniform intake process in our office. it is in the process of being developed, but one of the things i want to eliminate is the process that occurs throughout prosecutorial agencies around the country, the overcharging of cases in order to engage in plea-bargain later on. i personally disagree with that. [applause] we have to reform the system, and it has to be across the board. whether you are a prosecutor or police officer or member of the public, you need to be held accountable to the same rules. when someone in a position of authority violates a rule, the implications of that are greater, and we need to take a closer look. i have caused more police officers to be terminated from
employment than probably anyone in this room. i have had police officers that have been prosecuted for criminal conduct. i have been in this business a long time. i have no patience for bad official conduct. when i came to the sfpd, one of the first things we did was create an internal affairs unit with the criminal section. i recognize quickly the sometimes criminal misconduct internally was not being handled appropriately. i am not an apologist. when i tell you that there are people in positions of authority that do not abuse their authority, there are. when people in positions of authority abuse their authority, you have to make sure that you have the fortitude to make sure the right things occur. >> what do the polls say about an initiative repealing the death penalty? you kind of address that a
little bit, but i think you address it in -- addressed it in that it was based on financing and cost. the other question -- can you talk about what would happen logistically if all sentences were commuted to life without possibility of parole? >> the most recent poll i mentioned was on the question of the governor converting all the death sentences to life without parole and the potential cost savings of $1 billion, which shows 63% support. polls consistently show that when california voters are offered the choice between the death penalty and the option of life without possibility of parole, voters prefer the option of life without parole. a poll was done in 2009 by a professor at uc santa cruz where he asked about replacing the death penalty with a sentence of life without parole with work and restitution, whether it is people -- with the people sentenced to life without parole
would be required to work and some of the restitution would go to victims, and 2/3 of californians chose the option of life without parole and preferred that alternative. there is very strong support among voters for replacing the death penalty. in terms of how it would work, the governor has absolute authority to change any criminal sentence he wants, and that includes a death sentence, which he has the power to convert with -- convert to life without possibility of parole. the governor would take that action, most cases would completely end with him. he could change those sentences himself. fork cases where the person has two prior convictions, they would go to the california supreme court for further review, and four justices on the california supreme court would need to approve the governor's action in that case. the california supreme court spends over 1/3 of their time working on death penalty cases, and they are under enormous pressure financially. the entire judicial system is.
while we do not know what the supreme court would do, it would certainly be a huge relief to them to have these death penalty cases go away. after the death sentences had been converted to life without parole, it would be a question of reclassifying the inmates and moving them into other high- security prisons across california. then, the question of where they were in the appellate process would have to be addressed by the courts. in fact, both people -- most people on death row are still waiting for attorneys to be appointed, so in most cases, their appeals have not even begun. not most, 45%. they do not have habeas counsel, and many do not even have their first appellate attorney. a lot of this cases would simply be treated as life without parole appeals. for the cases that are later in the states, courts would have to address whether the appeals
continue or whether or not their sentence had been changed to life without parole simply resolve all the issues in their case and ended the appeals process. >> we've got less than five minutes, so i want to invite the panelists each to say something in closing. maybe you could each take a minute, whoever would like to go first. >> we can go this way, so i will start. it is a great pleasure to be here. it is a wonderful crowd today, and this is a wonderful panel to be here with. each of these individuals have enormous life experience that is so much more important than anything i could say, and i have learned a lot being on this panel which east of them -- with each of them, and i appreciate them taking the time to share their views and being so honest and forthcoming. these are exactly the voices we need to end the death penalty in california and across the country, and i hope all of you will get involved and go to the
website -- deathpenalty.org -- and you will find many ways to get involved. particularly right now, telling the governor to cut the death penalty, to convert all death sentences. if each of you were to go home and take that action, to send an e-mail message or hand write a letter to the governor, that would make a huge difference. together, we can end the death penalty in california. [applause] >> thank you for having me here today. i would like to close by saying i have had the opportunity to view this issue from every point of view, having been the warden at san quentin state prison. i am absolutely impassioned about the fact that it is time to end the death penalty in this state. life without possibility of parole is the real sentence. hold people accountable and gives them the opportunity to change within the prison system, and they can give back by working within the prison
system, giving restitution to family members and working on behalf of the state of california on a variety of projects that go on inside prisons. i also want to echo what the process said -- please join, please help -- i also want to echo what natasha said. talk to 10 of your friends, send e-mails, send letters. thank you. [applause] >> 1985, when i was sentenced to death for a crime i did not commit, i thought right away that this would be rectified. i was convicted of two different crimes. it took 18 years. it took me seven execution dates. i watched 12 then be executed while i was there -- i watched 12 and then be executed while i was there. i'm not in a position to say
whether either of them -- whether any of them were guilty or innocent. mr. d.a., i am asking you, truly consider leaving the death penalty along. let that be in god's hands, what that person goes through or deals with. there are too many flaws in our system that we cannot control and we cannot trust a man. i am asking you to consider that, to take the consideration of that. the question we did not answer was it one of these guys were in this and that was executed by a prosecutor that had evidence that was clearly convincing that that person was innocent, what would you do? that was a simple question to me. that was not a tricky question. it was a straight up question dealing with innocence and the prosecutor doing something that was considered murder or
attempted murder. you could answer that. you faded around that question, and to me, that is enough to make me think you should consider not dealing with the death penalty and joining in the fight to abolish the death penalty. we went to illinois, and i was with another group. we would go from state to state that have the death penalty and go to legislators and everyone asking them to abolish the death penalty. in the last two years, we have been successful. it appears like we are going to have to put california on our list. but that is all i wanted to say. that is something that once you take a life, you cannot bring it back. accountability needs to be on your part, too, on the district attorney's part, so if he knew a man was innocent and still
prosecuted him, that a straight up murder -- that is straight up murder. that is not malfeasance. [applause] >> i want to thank the public defender's office for putting this panel together. i understand there was a good panel this morning. these are issues that are conflicts, and they require continuing dialogue. the law is not perfect. the law is always evolving. it was an honor also to be with the other panelists here. i think that the issue of the death penalty is one that obviously is right -- ripe for us to bring this back to the voters. i think there is a great deal of evidence today that speaks to the problems of wrongful convictions. i think we all understand what the factors are.
we know there is a problem with wrongful convictions -- convictions. there is certainly a problem with prisoner treatment, and there is a problem with closure to the victims as well as the financial costs. it is up to all of us collectively to talk about how we deal with this and create a more profitable policy around dealing with very serious crimes, and i welcome the opportunity for having been here today. thank you very much. [applause] >> jeff adacci has a few closing remarks. >> i am a public defender. >> good afternoon. i am with the d a's office. >> in closing today's program, we want to first of all thank all of you for being here and being part of this discussion.
no doubt, we achieved a great deal. this was not just another talking head conference where people were just here to give a speech. you really heard engaged discussion from this morning all the way up until now. we thank our panelists because they came here with an open heart and an open mind. we are going to talk in a minute about how we are going to move things forward. i want to thank the staff of the public defender's office and the many volunteers who made this possible. we thank the library staff as well as sfgovtv for their good work here. john came here because we
invited him and because he knew that he is making a difference and will continue to make a difference. after serving 14 years on death row and spending 18 years of his life fighting the case, he continued to fight for justice, and he brought his case to the united states supreme court. he received a $40 million jury verdict, and in april, the united states supreme court overturned that, even though in this case, there were three prosecutors who have -- who were found to have intentionally withheld evidence that would have exonerated him. plus, and this is a great lesson for all of us, it was a prosecutor who was the hero. he stood up and came forward and told everybody what the other two prosecutors did. when he did that, his efforts were rebuked by the district
attorney. as a result, he left his job. it tells you that there are heroes everywhere. people are standing up for justice everywhere. we have to reach everyone everywhere every place in order to solve this problem. we do have a plaque to presented -- present to j.t > as a result of everything he has been through, but more importantly, to help him in the future -- present to j.t. as a result of everything he has been through, but more importantly, for everything he will do in the future. you can support the work he does with a reentry program for persons coming back from prison. so if we could present this to you. [applause]
moving forward, our work cannot stop here. i would like to have christine talk about what we are going to be doing moving forward. we have had meetings with district attorney george gascono about doing things differently. within the police chief, a new district attorney, we have that opportunity -- with a new police chief, a new district attorney, we have that opportunity. i would also like to acknowledge supervisor ross mirkarimi to come up here just for a moment and say hello, and let me have
christine close the program. >> good afternoon, everybody. it was a pleasure to listen to the last panel this afternoon. i am the chief of staff for mr. gascon, and i joined him when he moved over to the d.a.'s office. joining the office on his request, because i think we really have a unique perspective, having worked on the defense side and on policy issues, and i can attest that he is undertaking a wholehearted effort to really bring some reform to the criminal justice system on many fronts, this being one of them that we are evaluating. i hope that you as city and county residents will see in our work that we really take some efforts that will reform. anybody that has participated in the criminal justice system for any length of time knows that it does not work from whatever and will you are looking at it, so the question is how do we make it better? we hope to engage all of you in
that. we are starting neighborhood courts, and a lot of efforts that we hope to engage the city and county in supporting us and looking at ways to move away from the over incarceration of people and look at ways to reform their behavior. the efforts we have undertaken when george was appointed to the position -- jeff asked him to come to the public defender's office to have a question and answer session, which he did, and i attended with him. we are told that was the first time that had ever happened, and we reciprocated by asking jeff to meet with the district attorneys in our office. we have begun a dialogue that both sides think is very healthy. we have identified a number of issues that we think require further exploration, so we are creating working group's staff by the people from the d.a.'s office and the public defender's office to look at improving things like discovery, which is an important issue, making sure that we have reciprocal discovery and that it is
transparent and complete. looking at workers from collaborative courts, looking at solutions besides incarceration, dealing with mental health and behavioral health issues, rather than using the jails as a solution to that, and we are also working around juvenile issues to make sure we are doing all we can for those under the age of 18 in our community. those are the efforts we are undertaking. jeff and matt have been a fantastic partners in this. as far as we know, it is a new day in these efforts and really trying to work collaboratively and we hope to have all your support in doing that. [applause] >> of course, that is not to say that we are not going to fight it out in court because, of course, that is what we do. i would like to briefly introduce ross mirkarimi, who is a supervisor here in the city,
and he has been a champion of many criminal justice issues, including prisoner reentry. i also want to thank and acknowledge debra atherton. thank you. supervisor mirkarimi: it is nice to see everybody. jeff is generous. i was not expecting to be up here. i know you have had a productive day. i think that the public defender's summit is something not to be missed and a template for the rest of california and probably the nation to follow. i am proud of our public defender. i am proud of our criminal justice partners because over the last four years, we have seen a great amount of innovation. jeff and i started the city's first reentry council, and it might be bewildering to you, but before we started it, believe it
or not, those stakeholders in the criminal-justice system really very irregularly rarely would come together and talk about ways that we might mitigate, reduce our recidivism rate. great progress has been made, but san francisco still needs to step up its game. i was delighted to hear the conversation that took place here, but no the statistic that for every four people that sanford's is the police department arrests and the da prosecutes, nearly three are repeat offenders -- for every four people that san francisco police department arrests and the da prosecutes -- the d.a. prosecutes. there is evidence to show that doing everything we can to try to divert some of his life from repeating their offense, but we will have to really vigorously enhance our approach. one way to do that obviously is the collaboration being fostered
and demonstrated here today, but it is more than just today. it will have to be every single day, or else california will continue to be building more prisons, and san francisco may not be far behind. thanks. [applause] >> once again, thanks for the flag. [laughter] have a good time. have a good evening. thank you very much. [applause]